Times have changed. Due to advancement in education, professionalism and many other factors, women more and more find themselves separated by work or location from women in their family who can support them through childbirth. Their only option for a childbirth partner is their spouse/partner. However, do men want to take up this role? Do they want to be there or to participate in this process?
The feeling is quite mixed among men. The stories they have heard from other men make it either easier or harder to be by their spouse/partner’s side during labor or birth. Some men want to be there as a sign of involvement and solidarity. Others find it an obligation while some given a choice would take off and wait for the phone call.
Generally, men are wired to be problem solvers. In the family, they are the providers and protectors. During labour, they feel responsible for the well-being of their spouse/partner and child and want to provide safety and protect their spouse/partner and child from harm. They find themselves in a situation they cannot control nor solve. This situation can become frustrating, and can cause fear and anxiety.
A woman in labour is emotionally very sensitive. She draws a lot of her emotional strength and stability from her spouse/partner and this helps her deal with the physical work of labour. If she notices her spouse/partners is fearful or anxious, she in turn becomes anxious and this takes a toll on labour. Though the responsibility and need to protect their family is real, men can manage to support their spouse/partner through childbirth.
Here are a few tips for you men:
Allow your spouse/partner to have the kind of birth she wants.
Be considerate, she will be the one doing the most work. Her comfort helps her manage labor better. So allow her to birth in her own way and simply support her.
The best you can do for yourself and your spouse/partner is not to be in control.
Be there and go with the flow. This way, both of you is taking one-step at a time through the process. Never mind her expressions, allow her to be expressive.
Read more: Choosing your birthing companion carefully
Take a childbirth preparation class.
Surprises are good but you do not want to be clueless about what happens during labour and birth. The childbirth class prepares you on what to expect, allowing you to plan for the process emotionally and physically and gain some control.
Much as the man is there to offer support and comfort, it is okay and important for him to express his anxiety. The woman is okay with the man being anxious, but she looks for his strength to carry on; as long as he adds some encouragement at the end of the anxiety statement, the woman is fine as she feels and appreciates the companionship.
Have someone else there to give you a break.
Supporting a woman in labour is hard work. Have a friend, relative or even better hire a Doula who can offer help so you enjoy some break. It is important for the man to have a chance to enjoy the ‘becoming a father’ moment too. If you know you are unable to support your spouse/partner even after taking a childbirth class, let her know in good time and plan for someone to be with her.
Find out more about preparing for childbirth from Lucy Muchiri.